The Coronavirus, and all the social distancing required, has wreaked havoc on so many professions; those in all parts of the music community are not excepted. Concerts, tours, gigs, recording sessions, rehearsals, writing sessions and more have been cancelled or postponed.
Songwriters and musicians, as we know well, are the ones on whom all the others depend to provide music and song to calm and heal the masses in times like these. But with their own livelihood punctured for the time being, and no certainty of how long this can last, songwriters and music-makers are having a tough time doing what they do best: writing, recording and performing the songs people long to hear.
So we asked those in and around the greater L.A. music community (which stretches, often, as far east as Baltimore, if not further) how they are coping. Are you still being productive? Creative? Is social distancing hard for you, or just an extension of the usual songwriter’s life?
We received a vast and fascinating response, some quite anxious, some lesser so, and so voluminous that we are presenting it in separate sections, starting with this first installation.
With gratitude to all who answered and shared your experiences with us, and with an open invitation to any who would still like to weigh in (send to firstname.lastname@example.org), here are the testimonies of songwriters about how they are coping with the Coronavirus.
[The Coronavirus] has impacted me in other ways as a songwriter, because I’m finding it harder to concentrate on writing even though there is more downtime now. That downtime feels anxious, which is creating writer’s block for new material.
In addition, I don’t want to write a song about the virus specifically, so am still waiting for an underlying song message to appear that makes sense. What I am extremely grateful for is having a home studio, and am finding more inspiration to complete unfinished tracks and relish in the beauty of record making.
I’m not doing any in-person collaborations for writing or in the studio until we have a better handle on the virus. Rehearsals and gigs are off the table for now. I am planning to do live streaming from the studio soon though when the time is right ~ it’s important that we stay connected through technology now. Skype or FaceTime writing sessions will be the way for the future.
It’s affecting me in that I’m not cowriting. But I’ve done a ton of cowriting for the last couple of years so I’m not heartbroken. In trying to make the best of the situation I’m working on all the ideas that I’ve squirreled away, and I’m happy about that. I bet I’m not the only one doing that right now. Oh, and cleaning closets.
This too shall pass.
I had planned to sing a song at a gig this week (cancelled) that I wrote a couple years ago, about a deadly pandemic, called “Everybody’s Dead.” It’s fun. It has a happy ending.
But all my gigs are toast like everybody’s else’s. The cancellation that hurts the most is a concert scheduled this summer at a gorgeous new place in upstate New York.
It’s way too early for me to hear what the song I’d want to write would be. We’re all wandering around in these orchards of low-hanging fruit. The world doesn’t deserve song clutter. Nobody needs to hear 635 versions of “Dark Streets” or “Toilet Paper Blues” or some shit. Nobody’s ever been to 2020 before, and we’re all having the same terrors and dreams about it. I hope we can end up with pandemic songs that each turn the prism just a little bit, so the light shines through at a different angle, illuminating a previously unexplored aspect of the thing, or else something so clean and simple it’s been hard to see.
I thought it was going to be the occasion for a great creative outburst. But upon rhyming “COVID looks” with “Ovid books,” I am forced to confess I’m tapped out.
Co-writing the entire Tearaways record that Ed Stasium (thank God) is producing. We are working remotely and it is going great, despite the circumstances.
Regular gigs have ceased, along with showcases for other artists, our open mic, etc. Which is, basically, our bread and butter. These are challenging times, but we have to adapt, remain positive, be resourceful and help each other. I’ve been checking in on other artists who are not as tech savvy to see if they need any help setting things up to stream from home. The great thing is we have a home studio, so JJ is still able to produce, mix, etc. And we’ll be working on finally finishing our album.
SONIA RUTSTEIN [SONiA disappear fear].
In Baltimore. Had a 19-city spring tour of Germany. Very sad but had to cancel. So doing 19 digital Acts of Kindness concerts. One for each show missed, at the same time the show would have presented in Deutschland. The first one is on April 2nd at 8 pm German Time, Noon, L.A. time. From Baltimore to Darmstadt. All concerts are free. So get your popcorn and your beer and tune in to SONiA disappear fear on FB.
I’m in Long Beach and cancelled my album release show for my Harry Nilsson tribute album. Taking the time to continue the prep work like stuffing vinyl and crafting decorations, so when it is a better time, I’ll be all the more ready. Taking the opportunity to clear the clutter at home, get through distracting unfinished projects and setting a space of clarity for more creations.
We are now facing a true existential threat to our industry, to our art and to our lives. Many artists, musicians and keepers of pastimes have faced similar tragedies throughout history, and we must remember that the quality of the art must not suffer and that we must ride the waves and evolve as necessary.
Every musician, producer, live sound engineer, guitar tech has lost work and it shouldn’t be a daily social media post competition of who lost more work that day. This is a tragedy and with all tragedies, we must collect ourselves to be as cool as possible and keep the best of our wits about us as we tread this scary, unpredictable passage of time together.
As a songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer, I am very accustomed to time on my own all alone putting the work into the music and being away from people for great lengths of time. Some people are wired for this kinda stuff…many aren’t. So social distancing isn’t anything new to me but for the next batch of time, we’ll be losing out on making music with people in the same room and connecting with a live audience.
That is not just a huge financial stress but a human stress as well. Recording sessions, rehearsals and live performances with bands/crew/audiences are going to take some time to reconvene until we have a handle on this virus and a vaccine. Perhaps this will be the revolution of live stream shows or perhaps this will lead to a new game changing technology.
I think it’s time for artists to step up during this time and make sure that every song they craft, perform or record, is of the greatest of their abilities and really reacts powerfully with their audience. Our audience needs comfort, escape, normalcy and now, more than ever; they need calm, they need to rock, they need to laugh and they need to cry. As keepers of their pasttime, it’s important that we offer the highest quality of our abilities.
It’s important that artists remind your fans and friends that you are there for them. I’ve had several fans reach out to me telling me various songs from my catalog are really helping them on the day to day. That’s what the music is for: to entertain and inspire. I’m performing daily livestream shows and I can tell it’s bringing the fans who tune in just as much sanity and good feelings as it is for me while I’m singing into the cell phone or webcam. So this is it, folks. The stadium show has come to my couch.
Art becomes trivial in times like these throughout history. You can’t eat art, you can’t fuel a car or build a home with it. But the minute it’s no longer there is when society realizes that they need it. They need the art.
Fill that need. Write the best of songs, play the best of shows and may we all stay healthy, sane and cool and get through this together. Keep on rockin’ friends and neighbors. And just wash yer damn hands! – Ted Wulfers, March 18, 2020, during a new phase of our humanity.
The regular gigs I had have vanished, which is a heavy blow as it was my only income. But I’ve been more productive. I find myself less paralyzed now that I’m under house arrest.
STEPHANIE JANE MARKHAM.
Ironically, I had just taken time off auditioning for acting work to write some songs. Now this. I’m able to keep it up late nights, but my husband and I have a three-year-old and days are for him.
It’s been so inspiring seeing all the other musicians playing spontaneous concerts online, or writing new songs like Bono did yesterday. We’re all in this together and songwriters are soaking it all in.
I have had two cruises postpone that I was booked on as an artist. I was excited to play the On The Blue Cruise but terrified that I might end up quarantined on a boat for weeks with Art Garfunkel. Even though I love “Second Avenue” (which he did not write).
I do a lot of remote recording, so that’s all booming now. Just sent guitar tracks to the Netherlands, New York, Florida. All is great. I’ve written four songs since quarantine started three days ago. They say “Corona Babies” will happen in nine months. “Corona Albums” will happen as soon as next week!!!
Social distancing is my MO. I usually play all the instruments on my records.. My band has not broken up over this. I AM MY BAND!
LYNN SHIPLEY SOKOLOW.
It’s given me some serious shit to write about! (content -wise) and more time to do it!
EMILY ZUZIK HOLMES.
Well, it forced me back into collaborative writing mode. I’m working with a large collective of national musicians using a Dropbox to collaborate on an album. I’m writing with someone I’ve never met. I’m also figuring out the quirks in my home studio which I hadn’t used since I moved.
I’m on a tighter time schedule because I’m also keeping my kid on her school schedule. I’m trying to keep on track with a new record coming out—i.e. sending CDs to press, touching base with contacts and remembering this is not forever. But it’s hard. It’s tough being away from what you do, what you love, and to think it even matters in these strange times.
I have shows booked in May but I don’t know if they will happen. I’m not even sure if my kid will finish this year of school. So much uncertainty! And I have health pre-existing conditions that may take me out of any public circles until all are clear to come out of quarantine. It’s so frustrating for an independent woman like me. I can’t even go to pick up my favorite snacks at Trader Joe’s for fear of picking something up. I’m sure some parts of it are psychosomatic but maybe they aren’t.
Getting ready to reissue, release, resurface. Transform THE BLOOMFIELD. Create YouTube videos. Find muso pals to play with hover here. A tremendously creative period. Reaching out to radio stations. Working on a new website. Reading Faulkner. Spending too much time on Facebook, calling random friends. Thanks for asking. This is a great forum.
Strangely, I’ve been highly productive. No reason to go out and avoid working. writing a new season of kid’s songs for a YouTube kid’s channel, and voicing six babies and a dog. Keeps me busy! That said, I’m sad and stressed about this virus and worried about my loved ones.
First, the thing I normally do in the morning is improv; write a song idea, music and/or lyrics. However, right now it feels like damage control, and I had to stop and fix everything like trying to get stop payments and doubling up on getting online gigs to keep the payments coming in, as the in-person freelance gigs have stopped.
Got the new website done, finished the music video, doing tax prep before phoner with accountant (used to be in person), clearing off backlogged personal projects, woodshedding on guitar, available for remote collaborations on harmonica and other instruments like kalimba, jaw harp, dulcimer, voice-over, etc. Full-time freelance – day job in film/TV – so used to social distancing between gigs. Making the most of the downtime, reading, going for walks, and working out. Uncertain times, but keeping it going here.
I also had four shows cancel. And many college radio stations I sent CDs to have halted operations. But I’m trying to brightside this.
Just had to cancel a rehearsal at my house, three of us. We were all conflicted and decided to err on the side of caution. It’s freaky when you have to start thinking of how you might possibly catch something from your friends. We were so bummed.
It inspired this, a song I wrote to the tune of Dylan’s “Idiot Wind.” This is “Covidiot Wind.”
The CDC’s got it in for us
Pandemic pandemonium everywhere.
Lines stretching out to the door,
Madness, mayhem and panic in the air.
Two hundred rolls of Charmin’s best
And I’m still not sure if that’s enough.
Went back today and the shelves were bare.
From here on out it’s gonna be rough.
I sure hope I’m ready…..
2. There’s just ten cases in my home state
But they quarantined us anyway.
Closed the bar and laid us off.
Can’t even take a walk on the beach.
I woke up in a viral sweat,
Hoping this was all a bad dream.
If this is a hoax or great cosmic joke,
Blowing every time you read the news.
Blowing through the passengers on your cruise.
Blowing every time you move your teeth.
You’re an idiot, babe
It’s a wonder that you still know
how to breathe.
3. I ran into the fortune teller
She said “Beware, the coronavirus
is gonna strike!”
I haven’t known peace of mind
for so long, I don’t even remember
what it’s like.
The media bombards us all day long.
Fearmongers and liars sing the same sad song.
The symptoms are mild, then they go away.
But everybody acts like its Judgment Day
The whole world’s gone crazy.
Blowing like a circle around my skull.
From the traders down on Wall Street
To the State Capitol.
Blowing every time you move your teeth.
You’re an idiot, babe.
It’s a wonder that you still know
how to breathe.
COVIDIOT WIND. Copyright 2020 by Anthony Brehm/Needles Eye Music [BMI]
Original Music & Lyrics by Bob Dylan/Ram’s Horn Music [SESAC]
END OF PART I.
Part II will be published tomorrow. If you would like to contribute, please do. Write us an email. Send to email@example.com.
Take care of yourself. Be kind to others more than ever. Stay healthy. Write new songs and play old ones.
And keep hope alive.